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I am a Special Education teacher at the middle school level with a fully included roster of 12 students.  My roster is usually split with half of my students in one class with me and the other half in another classroom with my teacher associate.  I follow my students throughout the day to all their major classes and let them go on thier own to the minor or elective classes.  Not a difficult day for me, right? Well it can be.

I have had regular education students ask me why I am not a "real" teacher. I happened to be certified in 5 different areas, but to others I look more like an associate that a teacher. At times, I do not feel like a real teacher. I sit in another teacher's classroom afraid to assist with instruction because I am a visitor in that person's classroom. The regular education teacher has planned out each lesson knowing they will be presenting that lesson at least 4 times that day. I worry that if I should offer input or information on a topic that it would interrupt the flow of the lesson and perhaps that teacher would not be able to finish all that he/she wanted to cover.  I have also felt that at times I might have a great idea on how to use technology in the classroom or a project of sorts but I withhold my idea because I don't want to step on toes or make the other person feel like I'm telling them what to do.  What if what I have to offer is incorrect?

I work with a fabulous team of teachers at the 7th grade level and none of them think or act like they are above anyone else, I just think that maybe I lack the confidence to promote myself and my own abilities. If someone asks me for help, I'm all over it and will go above and beyond all I can do to help. I guess they just don't ask for help enough.

I guess what I would like to know is how others do inclusion and how to go about doing more on a daily basis in the classroom. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

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Comment by Wendy Fisher on February 25, 2011 at 7:27pm
Thank you for your reply, Jaime.

The students are split between two classes at a time to balance out the classes (I think). We work on a six day cycle so every other day I attend English and Science with a different group of students. Geography, reading, an math are all together and I attend with all my students at the same time. I am responsible for all adaptations and accommodations to materials, assignments, seating, discipline, etc, but I wish to actually be involved in the instructional process with all students. All students in the class are usually receptive to my help and will ask for my help when needed, but I never provide instruction. I am afraid that I will instruct the class in a way that differs from the way the reg ed teacher would expect it to be done. The benefit of my being in every classroom is that I know what is happening in each class and can offer insight to each teacher on what is being discussed in other classes to provide cross curricular opportunities. Mine is the only class doing full inclusion as a model because our 7th grade team works so well together. I just don't usually know what is going to happen until I get to class, just like the students.

Comment by Jaime Dubei on February 25, 2011 at 6:56pm

My entire school co-teaches to service students with ELL or special education needs.  Something we have learned is that there needs to be a culture around it.  As long as it is an add-on, and not the central aspect of the program, it will not be valued and work properly.  I'm not exactly sure what you mean by half of your students are in class with you and the other half in another classroom with a teacher associate.  Does that mean that you are responsible for the learning of the students in both rooms at the same time? Do they have needs that preclude them being in the same room together? 


Common planning time with the content area teachers is essential.  Having that time to see their content points and offer differentiation strategies to meet student needs will benefit all students in the room.  Our protocol is to have the content area teacher share unit plans, with individual lesson plans and activities, worksheets, etc., at least two days prior to the lesson.  The special educator then reads it, and offers differentiation ideas to meet student needs.  Some of our students require skeleton notes because they can't keep up with the notetaking demand, while others require differentiated questions, or reading selections on a different level (higher or lower than the rest of the class).  For our ELL students, the ESL teacher brings realia to relate to the lesson, finds visual images or videos to complement the lesson, and creates vocabulary learning activities that will benefit all students.  


From the administrative perspective, I meet with each co-teaching team at least 3 times a year.  This is a time to review the expectations, reflect on how we are all doing, and work for improvement.  This allows teachers the time to have the difficult conversation, and it helps me to reinforce their work together.   I often do observations on co-taught classrooms, rather than single teachers, because it reinforces the importance of the team,


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